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Why Do I Need to Floss?

Close up of a person flossing

We’ve all seen the memes online that joke about flossing. It always starts with someone’s dentist asking if they floss and the person responding (with a bloody mouth) that they do daily. All jokes aside flossing is incredibly important and dentists can tell whether you do it daily or more infrequently.

Even if you visit your dentist every six months, which is what is recommended by the American Dental Association, flossing and brushing are still the most important things you can do to make sure your mouth is as healthy as possible.

Why is flossing important?

Flossing is responsible for the removal of up to 40% of odor causing and decay-causing bacteria in your mouth. It gets in all the crevices and nooks that your toothbrush can’t reach. If plaque is not removed bacteria feeds off of it and produces acid that eats away at your teeth. This leads to cavities, gum disease, and bad breath.

Which dental floss is best for me?

Floss is made from nylon or Teflon and each material has its benefits and disadvantages. Flat, wide dental floss works great for people who have large gaps and spaces between their teeth. Thinner, shred resistant floss works best for people with closely spaced teeth. This helps avoid getting floss pieces stuck in your teeth.

Those with braces can use small, stiff-bristled brushes to clean between and underneath the wires.

How do I floss?

Flossing is about more than just doing it. It’s important that you floss right. To floss correctly grab a piece of floss that’s about 15 to 18 inches in length. Secure the floss around your fingers and run the floss in a “C” shape around each tooth and up and down. This gets all the plaque out from both between your teeth and from along your gum lines.

After flossing rinse your mouth then brush your teeth and tongue for two minutes.

What if I don’t floss?

If you don’t floss you’re putting your oral health at risk. Imagine taking your tooth, brushing it, and then placing it in a small box with bits of food for bacteria to feed off of. That’s essentially what you’re doing if you aren’t flossing. Because no matter how much you brush your teeth, there’s going to be food particles in your mouth unless you’re flossing and getting rid of them.

Not flossing can cause cavities, which are both painful and need professional treatment. It can also lead to gum disease, which causes pockets of infection around the gum. It begins with awful breath, then leads to loosening of teeth and finally loss of teeth. Advanced stages even lead to extensive infection in your jaw bone.

While visiting the dentist and regularly brushing is crucial to a healthy mouth, by not flossing you’re preventing the dentist and regular brushing from being as effective as possible. Start establishing flossing as a healthy habit by committing to it once a day for three whole weeks. Studies have shown that it takes 21 days to form a habit and flossing is one that you won’t regret starting.